It’s tempting to qualify Clint Eastwood as the finest filmmaker still working in his or her late 70s, but it somehow diminishes what he’s been able to accomplish. Just look at his work in the last two decades: “Unforgiven,” “Mystic River,” “Million Dollar Baby,” “Flags of Our Fathers” and “Letters From Iwo Jima.” Take out the age qualifier and ask any film lover: He’s one of the best, period.
And while he’s happy to look back (check out part one of our Eastwood interview all about the new “Dirty Harry” DVD), it’s very clear his eye is on the future. With “The Changeling,” starring Angelina Jolie, set for a fall release, he’s about to shoot another film astoundingly also set for release in just a few months, “Gran Torino.”
Little has been known about the project until now. Eastwood revealed to MTV News why “Torino” inspired him to act again, why Jolie was cast in “Changeling” and whether he’s entertaining thoughts of retirement.
MTV: It was rumored that the next film you’re going to direct, “Gran Torino,” would be another Dirty Harry film.
Clint Eastwood: “Gran Torino” is a different sort of thing. He’s more of a retired Sergeant Highway [from "Heartbreak Ridge"] than he is a Dirty Harry.
MTV: You spoke about essentially coming out of retirement only to do the “Million Dollar Baby” role. Why did “Gran Torino” lure you back again?
Eastwood: It speaks to prejudice and understanding and generational gaps. I can understand how this guy feels. It’s very cleverly laid out. It’s a guy who’s lived in the same neighborhood for 50 years among all people of his nationality, and all of a sudden, it’s become a different neighborhood. And he has a difficult time adjusting to a lot of things in his life. But then he ends up befriending some people and becoming very involved. It’s a nice idea.
MTV: You haven’t been directed by another director in 15 years. That’s shocking to me.
Eastwood: Yeah, I don’t know why that was. It was “In the Line of Fire.” I was always developing projects that I was intrigued by. That became interesting for me. [They offered] “In the Line of Fire” to me to direct and act in. I had just finished “Unforgiven” and didn’t want to both act and direct right away.
MTV: Would you say this is the most gratifying period of your professional life?
Eastwood: I’d say so, yeah. I’ve enjoyed directing a lot. I’ve done it for 38 years. I think now that I’m not thinking about acting, it becomes more logical. By and large, I’ve been trying to fight my way off-camera, where I can stand around in comfortable shoes and never have to worry about wardrobe.
MTV: You have “The Changeling” coming out with Angelina Jolie. Was casting her your idea?
Eastwood: They would have gone with whoever I wanted. [Brian] Grazer and Ron Howard were the ones who sent it to me, and they asked who I liked. They said Angelina Jolie is someone who’s very interested in it. Her face is one that works both contemporarily and in a period. And so I said, “Yeah, let’s go with her.” It was kind of a no-brainer. I’ve worked with a lot of wonderful actresses. I can’t say I’ve worked with anybody more professional.
MTV: And you’re going to be reteaming with Morgan Freeman, directing him as Nelson Mandela in “The Human Factor”?
Eastwood: Yes, that’s something we’re talking about doing around the first of next year. Matt Damon and Morgan Freeman. It’s a very good script.
MTV: Is there any role in that for you?
Eastwood: Nope. “Gran Torino” is a short movie. It’s very condensed. It won’t take very long. I’ll do that one for me and then I’m back …
MTV: In the comfortable shoes?
Eastwood: … in the comfortable shoes behind the camera. Maybe forever. But you never say never.
MTV: You haven’t even shot “Gran Torino,” but it’s supposed to come out later this year. How and why do you work so quickly?
Eastwood: I think it comes from the forefathers in the movie business. People used to make a lot of films, more than they do now. Sometimes it’s a fear factor. They’re afraid to step forward. They’re afraid to fail. You can’t sit there thinking, “Who’s going to go see this?” I can’t worry about that. I just have to do the best I can and make it.
MTV: Some of your friends have opted for retirement. It hit me the other day that we will probably never see another new Gene Hackman movie. That’s a sad thing.
Eastwood: It is a sad thing. I know his agent and I saw him recently, and he said, “Can’t you talk Gene into coming back?” I said, “I’d love to see him come back, but I think it’s not very nice to ride him.” He’s too good an actor not to be performing, but by the same token, he probably thinks that’s enough.
MTV: Is there anything else you’re itching to direct after these next two?
Eastwood: We’re talking about a couple other things, but these next two will keep me busy for a while and then maybe … who knows? Everybody asks me if I’ve thought about retirement. Every once in a while I think maybe this is enough. I’ll smell the roses. But to me, working is smelling the roses.
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